Top 5 Running Backs in the ELF

By Matt Bressington

Having finished other rankings, I wanted to keep the offensive theme going. I believe this year there is a plethora of excellent players at every position and running back is among the top of the strongest positions list. Former NFL talents, league champions and league rookies, there is diversity in skill sets and a variation of styles. There are so many young players I am very excited to see as well as the veterans. Let’s just get straight into it.

1. Sandro Patzgummer – Tirol Raiders

Photo: Matthew Swensen

I don’t think seeing the former New York Giant and Swarco Raiders running back at the top of this list is a surprise. He’s quick, explosive, knows how to hit the gap and uses his low center of gravity to make exaggerated cuts between or outside the tackles. The former Austrian champion is one of the most talented Europeans to make the jump over to the NFL, and it was a revelation to see him back in his boyhood club even though I have no doubt that he had offers from CFL or USFL teams. I’m expecting him to put on a clinic all over the field, not just as an RB but as a weapon out of the backfield and on the line of scrimmage. It would not be a shock to see him approach or possibly break the rushing record this year in Tirol.

2. Glen Toonga – Rhein Fire

Photo: Michael Freitag

Glen was a front-runner for the MVP last season and was my personal favorite for the award after he rushed for 1,448 yards for the Hamburg Sea Devils as they returned to the championship game. As far as his skill set is concerned, he is a physical, one-cut back who can turn on a dime. His jump cut is of premier quality and allows him to create angles for himself that he can burst through with his explosiveness. Although he isn’t necessarily a speed option, he brings the toughness to take the ball through the line of scrimmage with no fear of incoming contact. He is unavailable for the first four games of the 2023 season, but I think that will only add to his desire to come back and put the league on notice once again.

3. Silas Nacita – Helvetic Guards

Photo: Alexander Forst

Silas has such a wide array of moves he can and does use to maximize his potential to gain yardage. After a successful season with the Danube Dragons in Austria (he only played in the post season) where he finished as a champion, he has moved to the European Football League and became, arguably, the face of that team alongside Collin Hill. As he possesses explosiveness in his movement both inside and outside the tackles, plus athletic ability he is primed for a strong season. I do have concerns with his ball security as he tends to run loose with the ball and could tempt defenders to make a play. He may have to do a large majority of his work behind the line of scrimmage as the Helvetic Guards line isn’t as secure as other teams, but I am looking forward to seeing him put his skills to work.

4. Asnnel Robo – Stuttgart Surge

Asnel Robo playing for the University of Montreal File photo: QMI Agency

The former CFL player has returned to Europe and I’m expecting big things in his first season. The league last year only had two players who gained more than 800 yards and I think that Robo is going to join that group of players. He has a great burst through the gaps and breakaway speed that could lead to many long TDs this season. His patience behind his blockers and the attention being on Surge’s strong receiving options means he can easily catch teams on the back foot if they choose to not respect his ability. His smaller size at 5’7 217 pounds means he could have some durability concerns as a full-time starter, especially if he has special team responsibility as he did in the CFL.

5. Karri Pajarinen – Vienna Vikings

Photo: Manfred Loffler

The former Potsdam Royal is one of my favorite players to have transitioned from the GFL to the ELF. The Finnish national possesses all the qualities of an elite European back. He’s physical, has good balance and use of leverages, and is a capable player out of the backfield. Although he isn’t a “Top-end speed player” he has more than enough burst on the line of scrimmage to make his way into the second level. With the security of the Vikings offense and the weapons around him that will take attention away, he can be a big problem. The Vikings have invested in their offensive line this off-season as well, bringing in many returners and new talent to add to their attempt to repeat as champions

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